Seanad debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Inshore Fisheries

10:30 am

Photo of Garret AhearnGarret Ahearn (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Minister of State is very welcome to the Chamber. I thank him for taking this very important question, which relates to inland fisheries, particularly fishermen and clubs in Tipperary. The River Suir is regarded as one of the best rivers in the country for salmon fishing. About a third of the salmon are in the rivers Suir, Nore and Barrow. The stock has been depleting over many years, but since 1995 there has been a catch-and-release policy. Essentially, this is to protect the fish, which is very important. There are a significant number of clubs in Tipperary. The angling club in Clonmel has been going since the 1950s and has more than 150 members. The club in Carrick-on-Suir has been going since the 1920s, which is more than 100 years, and has well in excess of 100 members. There are also clubs in Ardfinnan and Golden. Therefore, there is a strong fishing community that loves fishing. It loves the river and wants to protect it. It is genuinely feared that it is not being protected and that it is essentially being left to the clubs to do so. Particularly from the fishing clubs' perspective, it seems Inland Fisheries Ireland is not patrolling the river to the extent it should. Many people are poaching fish from the river and essentially getting away with it. The fishermen who fish in it every week, who catch and release, feel like they have to manage the river themselves. They ask that Inland Fisheries Ireland do its job and patrol the rivers.

With this in mind, I have several questions I would like the Minister of State to answer on the River Suir and fishing in the area. How often does Inland Fisheries Ireland patrol the River Suir? Why does it not engage with the fishing clubs? How many calls does the Inland Fisheries Ireland's helpline receive? How much money does the organisation raise each year in the conservation fund? What is the breakdown of expenditure through that fund per region? What projects are funded through it? Most important, how many prosecutions for illegal fishing on the River Suir have there been in each of the past ten years, and how many nets have been seized? There is certainly a feeling within the community that protection is not happening to the extent it should. I realise people will start talking about the Covid years, but that is why I am asking for figures on what has been done in the past ten years, especially the past two.

Inland Fisheries Ireland is based in Clonmel. There should be, and I would have thought there would have been, a good relationship between the fishermen and the organisation because they should all have the same goal. However, this does not seem to be the case. These questions need to be asked to ensure the organisation is doing the job it is required to do.


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